By Lara Horwood
Whether you have been involved in or witnessed a bump on the road or a catastrophic collision, car accidents can be very traumatic. With adrenaline pumping, it can be hard to remember what steps to take before you leave the scene and begin to recover from the situation.
This is why legal experts at High Rise Legal Funding, a pre-settlement legal funding company, have compiled a list of the most important steps to take after being involved in a car accident, whether you are at fault or not or are just a witness.
Assess the Situation
If you have been involved in an accident, the first step is to take a second to breathe and check yourself for injuries. If you can move and check on other passengers in your vehicle, do so. If anyone in the vehicle fears they might be injured, you or a bystander should call the emergency services for assistance.
If you are a witness, it might be easier to think with a level head than those involved directly in the incident, so be there to offer your support if needed, after assessing the danger of the environment around you. If any party in the collision or crash has been injured or feels like they could be hurt, calling 911 is essential. This way, the paramedics will be able to assess the injured party; remember, not all injuries are surface level, and there could be trauma to the body internally.
The police are often called to car accidents so they can aid both parties in figuring out what has happened and can be there to help reduce any traffic build-up or concerned bystanders that are present.
If the collision or crash is one of which both parties have established who is at fault and no one is injured or hurt, emergency services may not be needed, and the next steps can be taken.
Get to a Safe Spot
If you can get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle, move to the sidewalk or roadside where you are out of the way of oncoming traffic. If the incident has occurred in a dangerous stretch of road or somewhere where it could be hazardous, if you can move it out of the way to a safer spot, do so.
Make sure you turn on your hazard lights if you can and use the flares in your emergency kit to notify other upcoming vehicles to slow down; most cars come equipped with these kits.
Make sure you only accept help from the emergency services, as it is common for scammers in tow trucks to offer assistance but, in return, end up taking the vehicle and demanding a payout.
If you have moved away from the vehicle, it also gives a safer opportunity to take photos of the vehicle(s) and document the incident while you wait for help. It is advised to talk to any witnesses who might have seen the accident who are willing to offer a statement and jot down their contact information.
Do you need assistance?
If you are medically OK and don’t need medical help, you might still need to contact the police. Calling the police after a collision or accident is a legal requirement in California. The officers will arrive to document the scene, take statements and fill in an accident report, but if the police, for some reason, cannot make it to your location, you can go to the nearest station and complete the procedure there.
Remember to keep those reports and documents safe, as if you file a claim with your insurer; they might want a copy to help with their proceedings.
You should exchange insurance and contact information as soon as possible. The information which is most important to decipher is:
Other parties’ full name, number and or email
Driver’s license plate and driver’s license details
Insurance company and policy number
Type of car, including both model and color
Location of the incident
If you suspect any form of road rage or drinking under the influence to have played a part in the incident, it is vital that you take caution in how you talk to the other party. They might be hostile, angry, or even violent, but keeping yourself and any children or elderly people with you safe should be your priority.
The insurance company will be able to determine who is at fault by assessing the damage to the vehicles, each party’s information, any other documents given, and police reports from the scene, which is why it is advised for both drivers and passengers to avoid talking about who is at fault as this can lead to altercations and other complications that are not needed.
Don’t Make Deals With the Other Driver
Making a deal in exchange for cash after a road traffic accident is ill-advised. Opting to settle the accident privately without the input of an insurance company or lawyer could leave you in more trouble down the line. The safest bet is always to involve your insurance company or a lawyer.
Contact your Insurer
If you can, it can speed up the process by contacting your insurance company while you are still at the scene. Some insurance providers have an app where you can report a claim or just ring them up and answer their questions. They can tell you what they require to start the process and sometimes offer to take your vehicle to a repair shop to start getting it fixed.
Your car insurance policy might allow you to get some money back from any repairs made, so it is important to talk to the company directly and figure out what you are entitled to.
Contact the DMV
If anyone was killed or injured or if the accident caused more than $1,000. In damage you must contact the DMV. Failing to contact the DMV after an accident in those cases can lead to serious consequences, including having your license suspended, criminal charges and fines.